Two Cuban doctors in Kenya kidnapped by suspected militants

Security officers and civilians stand next to the car where gunmen abducted two Cuban doctors as they were going to work, in Mandera county, Kenya. (Reuters)
Updated 12 April 2019

Two Cuban doctors in Kenya kidnapped by suspected militants

  • The operation happened as the two doctors — a general practitioner and a surgeon — were on the way to work in the town of Mandera, close to the border with Somalia
  • The two doctors, whose names have not been released, are part of a group of about 100 Cubans who came to Kenya last year to help boost health services

NAIROBI: Suspected Somali Al-Shabab militants kidnapped two Cuban doctors in northeastern Kenya on Friday and killed their police escort officer, officials said.
The operation happened as the two doctors — a general practitioner and a surgeon — were on the way to work in the town of Mandera, close to the border with Somalia.
“Today at around 9:00 am, suspected Al-Shabab militants abducted the two Cuban doctors stationed at the Mandera County Referral Hospital,” the county’s governor, Ali Roba said in a statement.
Kenyan police spokesman Charles Owino said the assailants used two Toyota Probox cars to block the vehicle that the doctors were traveling in.
One of the two police officers escorting them “was shot by the attackers and died on the spot. The attackers succeeded to abduct the two doctors and crossed the border with them,” said Owino.
The driver of the doctors’ vehicle was arrested “and is currently being interrogated,” he said.
“Our security officers are pursuing the attackers.”
A senior police officer, who asked not to be named, told AFP: “From the modus operandi and the fact that they went toward the Somalia border, we have reasons to believe that the kidnappers are Al-Shabab.”
The two doctors, whose names have not been released, are part of a group of about 100 Cubans who came to Kenya last year to help boost health services.
Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabab militants have been waging an insurgency against Somalia’s foreign-backed government for over a decade.
Last November, an armed gang seized Silvia Romano, 23, an Italian charity worker, in the southeastern town of Chakama. Her whereabouts are unknown.
Police at the time warned against any speculation that the Shabab may have been involved in her abduction.
The Shabab, an Al-Qaeda affiliate, have been fighting since 2007 to topple Somalia’s fragile government, which is supported by a 20,000-strong African Union force, Amisom.
The Shabab fled fixed positions they once held in Mogadishu in 2011, and have since lost many of their strongholds.
But they retain control of large rural swathes of the country, and continue to wage a guerrilla war against the authorities, striking at the heart of Somalia’s government.
The group has carried out a number of attacks in Kenya in reprisal for the country’s participation in Amisom.
Kidnappings in Kenya are relatively rare but can have a devastating impact on tourism, a major income-earner.


Why India cases are rising to multiple peaks

Updated 11 July 2020

Why India cases are rising to multiple peaks

  • India has tallied 793,802 infections and more than 21,600 deaths, with cases doubling every three weeks

NEW DELHI: In just three weeks, India went from the world’s sixth worst-affected country by the coronavirus to the third, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. India’s fragile health system was bolstered during a stringent monthslong lockdown but could still be overwhelmed by an exponential rise in infections.
Here is where India stands in its battle against the virus:

Steady climb, multiple peaks
India has tallied 793,802 infections and more than 21,600 deaths, with cases doubling every three weeks. It’s testing more than 250,000 samples daily after months of sluggishness, but experts say this is insufficient for a country of nearly 1.4 billion people.
“This whole thing about the ‘peak’ is a false bogey because we won’t have one peak in India, but a series of peaks,” said Dr. Anant Bhan, a bioethics and global health researcher. He pointed out that the capital of New Delhi and India’s financial capital, Mumbai, had already seen surges, while infections had now begun spreading to smaller cities as governments eased restrictions. The actual toll would be unknown, he said, unless India made testing more accessible.

John Hopkins University graphic

Dubious data
The Health Ministry said Thursday that India was doing “relatively well” managing COVID-19, pointing to 13 deaths per 1 million people, compared to about 400 in the United States and 320 in Brazil. But knowing the actual toll in India is “absolutely impossible” because there is no reporting mechanism in most places for any kind of death, said Dr. Jayaprakash Muliyil, an epidemiologist at the Christian Medical College in Vellore who has been advising the government.
Official data shows 43% of the people who have died from the coronavirus were between the ages of 30 and 60, but research globally indicates that the disease is particularly fatal to the elderly, suggesting to Muliyil that many virus deaths among older Indians “don’t get picked up” or counted in the virus fatality numbers.


“No central coordination”
In India, public health is managed at a state level, and some have managed better than others. The southern state of Kerala, where India’s first three virus cases were reported, has been held up as a model. It isolated patients early, traced and quarantined contacts and tested aggressively. By contrast, Delhi, the state that includes the national capital, has been sharply criticized for failing to anticipate a surge of cases in recent weeks as lockdown measures eased. Patients have died after being turned away from COVID-designated hospitals that said they were at capacity. It led the Home Ministry to intervene and allocate 500 railway cars as makeshift hospital wards.
But as the capital rushes to conjure new beds, officials admit that they’re worried about the lack of trained and experienced health care workers. According to Jishnu Das, a professor of economics at Georgetown University, there is “no central coordination” to move health care staff from one state to another, exposing India’s relative inability to use data to guide policy decisions.
“The one big thing that we’re learning from this pandemic is it takes any cracks in our systems and it drives a chisel to them. So, it’s no longer a crack, it’s a huge chasm,” Das said.

India’s role in global fight
India has seven vaccines in various stages of clinical trial, including one by Bharat Biotech that the Indian Council on Medical Research pledged would have results from human trials by Aug. 15, the country’s Independence Day. The top medical research body quickly backtracked, but regardless of whether India comes out on top in the global race for a vaccine, the country will play a critical role in the world’s inoculation against COVID-19.
The Serum Institute of India in the central Indian city of Pune is the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer. India makes about 1,000 ventilators and 600,000 personal protective equipment kits per day, according to government think-tank Niti Aayog, making it the second largest kit maker in the world after China.


The economic curve
Although Indian airspace remains closed to commercial airlines from abroad, India’s economy has largely reopened. Consumer activity has rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, government data showed, and factory workers who fled cities when India imposed its lockdown March 24 have begun to return, enticed, in some cases, by employers offering free room and board.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has used the health crisis along with a military standoff with China over a disputed border region to rally the country around the idea of a “self-reliant India” whose home-grown industries will emerge stronger. Approval ratings that US pollster Morning Consult estimate at 82% suggest many Indians are with him, even after the hasty lockdown triggered a humanitarian crisis, with thousands of migrant workers fleeing on foot toward their natal villages, and as two top government scientists on the front lines of the coronavirus fight stepping down in recent weeks. With the coronavirus nowhere near abating in India, how Modi will fare as the toll of infections and deaths continues to rise is still unclear.